Poem of the Week: Linger now with me, thou Beauty

This poem by Mervyn Peake inhabits the world of Gormenghast, that Gothic creation of arcane, stultifying rituals and trapped flights of fancy, all captured within a seemingly endless maze of stone corridors, towers, and parapets.  I remember falling into the novels and knowing nothing of ordinary reality until I emerged, dazed at the end.  A superb fantasy, so grounded in detail that its world seemed as solid as real life.  If anything, real life seemed a bit gray and tenuous for a while afterwards.

I fell in love with Fuschia Groan, hating the upstart Steerpike for his cynical pursuit of her, while being forced to admire his ambition and determination to overthrow the Groan dynasty.

So this poem is right up my street.

Linger now with me, thou Beauty

Linger now with me, thou Beauty,
On the sharp archaic shore.
Surely ’tis a wastrel’s duty
And the gods could ask no more.
If thou lingerest when I linger,
If thou tread’st the stones I tread,
Thou wilt stay my spirit’s hunger
And dispel the dreams I dread.

Come thou, love, my own, my only,
Through the battlements of Groan;
Lingering becomes so lonely
When one lingers on one’s own.

I have lingered in the cloisters
Of the Northern Wing at night,
As the sky unclasped its oysters
On the midnight pearls of light;
For the long remorseless shadows
Chilled me with exquisite fear.
I have lingered in cold meadows
Through a month of rain, my dear.

Come, my Love, my sweet, my Only,
Through the parapets of Groan.
Lingering can be very lonely
When one lingers on one’s own.

In dark alcoves I have lingered
Conscious of dead dynasties;
I have lingered in blue cellars
And in hollow trunks of trees.
Many a traveler through moonlight
Passing by a winding stair
Or a cold and crumbling archway
Has been shocked to see me there.

I have longed for thee, my Only,
Hark! the footsteps of the Groan!
Lingering is so very lonely
When one lingers all alone.

Will thou come with me, and linger?
And discourse with me of those
Secret things the mystic finger
Points to, but will not disclose?
When I’m all alone, my glory
Always fades, because I find
Being lonely drives the splendour
Of my vision from my mind.

Come, oh, come, my own! my Only!
Through the Gormenghast of Groan.
Lingering has become so lonely
As I linger all alone!

Mervyn Peake


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